History of SEO

law firm seo

If you are interested in developing a strong law firm marketing strategy, it's necessary to look into the history of search engine optimization as a whole.


According to the historyofseo.com, "Archie" was the first official search engine developed in 1990.  This search engine would be unrecognizable today and isn't even anything like the search engines of even just a few years later, which featured a front-end graphic-rich user interface with a back-end that used spiders to crawl the internet.

There were a few key players who developed what we know today.



Danny Sullivan began as a newspaper reporter who was very interested in the web. That initial interest led to his 1996 publication, "The Webmaster's Guide to Search Engines." The book, which is still relevant today, sparked so much interest that he then developed Search Engine Watch later that year. When Jupiter Media purchased Search Engine Watch in 1997, Sullivan stayed on as the webmaster. He then organized the first conference in 1999, which became the Search Engine Strategies Conference. In the first year 200 people showed up, many of them having acquaintances at the conference they had never even met in person. At that time, Sullivan claims that most people were frustrated with Yahoo as they felt it had too much control over where web sites showed up in their search rankings.

Bruce Clay (of Bruce Clay, Inc.) also attended the 1999 conference. He'd started his optimization company out of his home in 1996.  Clay simply optimized clients' web sites and then submitted them to Infoseek, where they would immediately update the index. Now his company has four locations around the world.

John Audette, an author, also found his success early on in the SEO game.  In 1995, he was able to sell 4,000 copies of his online book discussing internet marketing. He then started MMG (Multi-Media Marketing Group), which was made famous by its I-Search Internet marketing newsletter.

Finally in 1998, Google arrived marking the birth of the search engines we know today. Google CEOs Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford in the 90's as computer science grad students. Together they developed a search engine at Stanford (BackRub), but it took up too much bandwidth on the university's servers. So they went out and did it on their own. They started Google in 1998 with $100,000 in venture capital.  They set up a business space in a garage until they struck a $25-million dollar deal in 1999 with Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins.

Since that time, specialists have worked to understand Google's algorithms for web page indexing. Yahoo remains another popular search engine, as does Microsoft's Bing.  By 1999, these search portals began using the logic of an actual internet surfer to improve the quality of their search results. Before this, search engines ranked pages mostly by keyword distribution, which was easily manipulated by webmaster spammers. A new and better way was needed for search engines to determine a site's relevance.  Thus, algorithms were developed that analyzed click tracking. Sites receiving more clicks in a particular keyword search results were weighed as more important, and so ranked higher for subsequent searches of those keywords.  Google has since developed advanced features like indexing and searching PDF and flash files.  Additionally, Google's sophisticated techniques uses "off-the-page" parameters, which make it extremely resistant to spam. This is one of the many reasons Google has been able to gain dominance in the world of search engines.

Today, search engine optimization requires an integrated approach that improves site content, popularity and quality.


For a Web site to reach the top search rankings, it must incorporate target audience analysis, competitive analysis, and strategic copyediting. Furthermore, because SEO changes so rapidly, search engine optimizers need to devote a time and resources to stay on top of the trends.

In terms of the future, Danny Sullivan feels that search engines have long way to go. He often receives the following question, "What about flash?"  He feels that one challenge search engines still face is that of vertical-space opportunities.

Bruce Clay says the future of SEO lies in analytics. "Behavioral search, personalized search, local search – every individual query is going to get a different ranking." Clay stresses that you cannot run a ranking on a site and get a constant statistic. “Analytics is the true measurement of whether you’re getting better or worse at what you’re doing."

Finally, the pioneer of a '90s Internet chat room for parents, Jill Whalen, believes website optimization is more difficult than it has ever been. Because the competition is stiffer and the Internet is more like the real world, she feels that newbies need to study up, reading more books, taking more classes and experimenting.